Are public sector leaders of any use to the private sector?

I have been pondering this question a bit lately as I am one of 100s of public sector managers who lost out in a board restructure/downsizing. We are all too familiar with the “cull of public sector posts” and with further treasury cuts proposed there will be many more.

Affected and not that young any more but too young to retire, so what to do? I diligently set up a company to ply my strategy & operational management skills. I built my social media presence & I networked furiously asking anyone & everyone: “What is the success of your independent company?”

I Continued with professional development with a post graduate executive coaching & mentor qualification. I  keep my board room skills honed as a Non-Executive for a community trust.  I offered probono support to my son’s school as a year 11 mentor & to my church where I coach the newest leader there.  I read, I watched, I listened and I blogged.

Now increasingly on the outside looking in I have had time to reflect on the quality of leadership across the public sector and leadership skills more generally.  I joined the public sector soon after the Griffiths reforms That was about increased efficiency & bringing private sector managers into the NHS and professionalising management  I benefited  personally by accessing great learning & development and culminating in my Business School MBA. Now on the outside I find myself  supporting private & independent sector companies, individual entrepreneurs, not for profit & education.  Im loving that so the questions arose;

Do public sector managers transition to the private sector and do you want our skills?

In their report “The challenges of transition: from public to private” Hays and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry look at the assumptions held on public sector managers by the private sector & public sector views of the other. The reports suggest skills are transferable in some instances and we should be open minded to this.

If you are in the private sector and you look carefully at the public sector (maybe via LinkedIn) you will find people who have operated at a senior level with a range of really valuable skills.

So, what can we offer?

“Management of multi-million pound budgets, including critical decision making • Identification and implementation of cost control and best-value initiatives • Compliance with complex regulatory or legislative requirements • Management and mitigation of risk • Development of people and teams • Management of complex, highly political stakeholder relationships • Knowledge of how governmental organisations work and an in-depth understanding of their requirements”

Many of these skills are invaluable in other sectors & new external insights in the board room are always really valuable.

But do public sector managers transition to the private sector & should you recruit them?

Of course the answer is Yes and here are some tips to recruit the best:

  • Look for those who have worked across a range of organisations
  • Who have experience in a range of settings & geography
  • Those with a flexible attitude & a range of skills to offer you and your share holders
  • those who are still learning & are curious
  • then test if they can get excited about you and your business – find the passion 

BUT BEWARE not all public sector managers can make that transition. Some may like the routine of pay, pension and the structure of a big organisation to hide in. Anyone coming to the private sector will need help to understand what’s different & demonstrate to the private sector they understand:

  • how  objectives have to be met that clearly deliver profit and shareholder value
  • needing to act quickly and with autonomy to respond to the market
  • they will work innovatively, non-hierarchically & within company law
  • there is much less bureaucracy
  • the private sector has some great leadership roles to offer

And of course I am always looking for new opportunities inside & outside the public sector as a coach & strategist

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